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Daily Archives: 30. May 2015 − News & Stories


Wha­ling

The fur­ther we came north, the bet­ter the wea­ther. The stiff bree­ze eased out until the water sur­face beca­me oily, just moved by the gent­le swell, shi­ning in the evening sun. Best con­di­ti­ons to find some wha­les!

We were not the only ones in the area loo­king for wha­les, but litt­le did we know that the inten­ti­ons of the other boat that came into sight were far less peace­ful. The see­min­gly inno­cent boat Rei­ne­bru­en from Svol­vær (Lofo­ten, Nor­way) tur­ned out to be a wha­le cat­cher, with a crow’s nest and a har­poon gun on the bow, and while we were watching a young Hump­back wha­le, we heard the first shot being fired in the distance. Several more shots fol­lo­wed over the next cou­p­le of minu­tes, and we saw a smal­ler wha­le spla­shing under the bow of the wha­ler. It fought the pain of the steel har­poon in its bel­ly for 5-6 minu­tes until it died.

It is not a secret that Nor­way issu­es well bey­ond 1000 licen­ses for Min­ke wha­les to its wha­ling fleet every year, and some­ti­mes we see wha­ling ships in Nor­we­gi­an ports inclu­ding Lon­gye­ar­by­en. But see­ing a wha­ler in dead­ly action is some­thing dif­fe­rent. I had never seen that befo­re and I did not have an idea of the impres­si­on it would make on me to see how a wha­le is shot, dies and is pul­led up on deck.

The crew of the Rei­ne­bu­en tur­ned the ship several times quick­ly, obvious­ly try­ing to move the stron­gly blee­ding wha­le out of our sight. They know what the world things about this.

Final­ly they went their way and we went ours. I had a bad fee­ling in my sto­mach and weak kne­es, as if I had just beco­me wit­ness to a mur­der. Well, this was pret­ty much the case, in a wider sen­se.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Soon, two more Hump­back wha­les appeared under the mid­ni­ght sun, hap­py and ali­ve, not knowing that a slight­ly remo­ter rela­ti­ve had just died in a very bloo­dy and pain­ful way. Spi­rits on board were rising noti­ce­ab­ly. Admit­ted­ly, I was not yet up for it. The emo­tio­nal chan­ge from slaugh­ter to obser­va­ti­on of almost the same won­der­ful ani­mal was just a bit too fast for me, so I wat­ched it slight­ly mecha­ni­cal­ly, took my pho­tos and was then hap­py to finish the day.

Bear Island

29th/30th May 2015 – The­re is not­hing much to say about the cros­sing. Wind and waves made it an expe­ri­ence of limi­ted plea­su­re, and pre­sence during meals was visi­b­ly redu­ced. Well, it was not dra­ma­tic, but not real­ly popu­lar eit­her. No sightin­gs of wha­les, only small groups of dol­phins every now and then. The bet­ter that we made good speed, so we reached Bear Island alrea­dy mid-day of the 29th. We kept on the sou­the­as­tern side, as this side offe­red the best shel­ter avail­ab­le from wind and waves, and soon we had found a sui­ta­ble lan­ding site.

From the distance, Bear Island may seem a grey, empty rock in the oce­an, but a clo­ser look reve­als all the tre­a­su­res of natu­re you can ima­gi­ne of a remo­te, small island in the Arc­tic. An impres­si­ve coas­tal land­s­cape with bird cliffs, various geo­mor­pho­lo­gi­cal phe­no­me­na inclu­ding frost-pat­ter­ned ground and karst springs and so on. The fee­ling of remo­teness and expo­sure is amongst the best parts of the Bear Island expe­ri­ence, espe­cial­ly in quiet moments when all you hear is the wind. We spend a rather long after­noon on the island, roa­ming around from the river mouth in Ærfuglvi­ka to the sea­b­ird colo­ny at Kapp Ruth, pas­sing some small, most­ly still fro­zen lakes in flat tun­dra towards the river Jor­dbru­el­va, which we fol­lo­wed bet­ween steep snow-cove­r­ed river banks, until we retur­ned to Kapp Maria with its impres­si­ve rock cave Kvalk­jef­ten (wha­le jaw) and a huge hole in the rocky ground, through which you see the surf 15 m lower down.

A calm night at anchor in the shel­ter of the island was cer­tain­ly amongst the high­lights of the day for many.

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Next morning, we crui­sed around the sou­thern end of Bear Island, whe­re natu­re has crea­ted some of the most impres­si­ve cliffs in the north Atlan­tic. The seas and winds being too high for any Zodiac ope­ra­ti­ons, we enjoy­ed the views from the ship, in the pre­sence of count­less Nort­hern ful­mars, befo­re we con­ti­nued nor­thwards, cour­se for Spits­ber­gen.

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